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Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

3,072 Ratings

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Ratings: 3,072
Reviews: 797
rAvg: 4.49
pDev: 9.35%
Wants: 3,147
Gots: 1,144 | FT: 83
Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company visit their website
Minnesota, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  10.30% ABV

Availability: Fall

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: ryantupy on 10-08-2006

Starting in 2014, bottled Darkness will be aged in whiskey barrels. This listing is ONLY for Darkness that is NOT barrel-aged. For 2014 Darkness go here:  http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/p ... 14/141724/ 

2007-Grim Reaper
2012 - Werewolf
2013 - Brewcifer
View: Beers (42) | Events
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 3,072 | Reviews: 797
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5/5  rDev +11.4%

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4/5  rDev -10.9%

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5/5  rDev +11.4%

Photo of pokesbeerdude
4.5/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2011 bottle courtesy of levifunk. Into a Stone IRS tulip. Review #666.

A: Lives up to the moniker, this is a very dark beer, practically black with a tan head that bubbles up to about an inch and falls back away to a light cap that doesn't want to disappear. Lot of small spots of lacing are left behind as it recedes.

S: Surprising amount of hops in here, a bit of a citrus note, then a huge chocolate, almost hot cocoa aroma hits the nose. Underneath the chocolate is a fair amount of roasted barley, coffee, and a touch of molasses. I also get some over ripe cherries and plums in there.

T: Huge chocolate notes, caramel, toffee, and a ton of dark fruits as well, think plums and cherries that are almost passed their prime. A lot of coffee in here as well. Nice bitterness on the finish to round out a lot of sweetness in the beer. A touch of booze finds its way in here as well. A fair amount of hop resins linger for quite a while. Long lingering finish reminiscent of sweet red wine, and dark fruits. Really a fine stout.

M: Nice body, perfect amount of viscosity and enough carbonation to make it velvety and rich, without being over carbonated. Quite sticky on the lips. Just about perfect.

O: A really nice stout, easily one of the most enjoyable beers I've had in some time. I would like a little bit more of roasted barley/coffee note though, that would set it over the top. I like the amount of dark fruit and hops in here. I don't know what this will do with age, but thankfully I have a bottle to sit on for a while, however, it is about perfect right now.

Thanks Levi!

Photo of CheezyBlaster
4.78/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2011 batch.

This looks and smells . . . amazing! I don't even want to drink it. Perfectly toasted-to-lightly-burnt malts; let me be clear, this is the finest iteration of this characteristic I have ever encountered. Obvious bit of coffee/cocoa to go along and a small encounter of mingling dark berries/cherries.

But holy crap, this is unbelievable! Best mouthfeel ever. Perfect blend of velvet and viscous. Unbelievably creamy. I don't think the style could get better than this. Tastes like . . . wow. Just perfected; sweet, dark, whipped butter, licorice, malt . . . ohhh the malt. The malt.

I've got nothing left to say. I was lucky to get this from a friend in Minnesota. Haven't had better, can't really imagine better either. The only drawback might be the drinkability. I don't think I could have more than a bomber, maybe less . . . but that's not what I want from this style anyhow. I'll say it again: amazing!

Photo of slyke
4.08/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Darkness 2011 pours black with a finger of tan head that falls to a thin cap after a few minutes and laces a bit.

The smell is dark fruit, licorice, alcohol and a note of wet leather.

The taste is has notes of coffee, dark fruit and licorice. There is a deep sweetness and a warming sense from the alcohol in this beer.

Mouthfeel is light-medium weight, but coating and and leaves a warming aftertaste.

Overall this beer is pretty good. I saw it at a local bottle shop and never having vertured to "Darkness Day" at the brewery, I thought I'd find out what the hype was all about. I was not disappointed.

Photo of Slatetank
4.48/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to bmoyer0301 for breaking this out recently -enjoyed cellar temp in standard pint.

This is a beautiful stout, looks thick and black as it is poured with some espresso-like crema for head with ultra tight bead. The aromas of brownie batter and baker's cocoa's semi-bitter/semi-sweet scents with mild dark fruit from the yeast which is plummy. The stout has a light sweet hop odor with more berry tinge with the dark toasted malt nose as it is swirled. The feel is rich, viscous, sweet fruit and little drying as it is moved around the mouth. The mellow spiciness of this gives some complexity and the texture is generally creamy with a pretty mild alcohol influence.

Darkness has a taste of bitter cocoa which is familiar for Russian imperial because it has a lightly bitter nutty taste up front with some astringent coffee-like dark mallt elements and raisiny dried fruit aspect. There is a earthy woody and almost light anise taste which comes forward as it warms with mild burnt malt quality as it finishes. This is an extremely drinkable beer for the abv, I found myself having to regulate my gulps and respect the big stout for what it is. I enjoyed how easy it goes down with an almost burnt marshmallow-like caramel essence that bring out a bit of concentrated dark sugar flavor. I was extremely appreciative to Brad for sharing this with us a stout worth savoring

Photo of Nashvillain
3.86/5  rDev -14%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2010 Version, Gold Wax and a fucking VAMPIRE on the front.

I really do think the appearance of the actual beer is amazing, but I love that label art. The beer itself pulls a pitch black into the glass and lets NO light through. Darkness is right. Head retention is decent, leaves a perfect lacing behind.

Smell is booze, licorice, faint coffee, booze, roast, a light milk chocolate, and booze.

Taste is heavy handed on the licorice with chocolate and booze providing backup. I can't say it's not good, but I just don't get as much out of this as I thought I would. Definitely thankful to get a bottle either way though. There may have been hops here at one point which would make everything that much more interesting, but they're gone now for sure.

Overall a good beer but not as great as expected. Maybe it's meant to be had fresh at which point I'll alter the review but for now the only thing legendary about this beer is the label.

Photo of MattyG85
4.92/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured from 750 ml bottle into a Surly Darkness chalice glass. 2011 bottle with a great looking zombie label. BRAAIIINS!

Appearance: Pours very dark and black with only a slight tint of dark brown. Decent three finger deep tan head that settles into a thin patchy layer. Decent amount of lacing on the glass.

Smell: Very rich and darkly sweet. Dark roasted caramel malts with toffee. Big aroma of dark chocolate. A pretty bold presence of dark fruits with raisins and dark cherries. Has some notes of coffee and oak chips lingering around. Also some hints of grassy hops underneath the sweetness. Smells great.

Taste: Just as dark and tasty as the smell leads. Big taste of dark chocolate with dark toasted caramel and toffee malts. Solid presence of coffee and a strong kick of dark fruit sweetness from raisins and dark cherries. Has a hint of oak chips. Finishes with a solid presence of grassy hops adding some balance to the sweetness. Everything comes together perfectly. This is quite delicious.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with a moderate level of carbonation. Very roasty, thick, and creamy. A little heat is felt but this is pretty smooth.

Overall: An incredible Russian Imperial Stout. Very robust, complex, and tasty. A perfect blend of sweetness and bitterness. Well worth the hype. This is heaven.... or better yet hell in a bottle. :)

Photo of AmericanGothic
4.64/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bomber into a Sam Adams pint. 2011 version.

A: Pours a nearly opaque, very dark brown color with one finger of dark khaki head. Good retention and lace. I swear the last drops from the bottle were blood red, but maybe that was my imagination....

S: Vinous, heady chocolate and dark fruits. Very rich.

T: Leads with smooth, semi-sweet chocolate. Also some sweet dark fruit. It's a tad too boozy, not a major flaw, but aging would be a plus. Long, lingering finish has a bit of coffee bitterness. As the beer warms, the coffee starts to emerge mid sip. The sweetness is just right-- far from cloying but always present.

M: Nice and full, quite smooth, creamy and downright sensual.

O: Enjoyed this very much. Wish I had another bottle to age for a year, but very grateful to Kevin for hunting this down and bringing one back from Minny. Will need to make the trip myself next year just for the second bottle.


1. The red wax (?) ornament on the cap is a bear to remove. But it does look pretty.

2. Had intended to enjoy this on International Stout Day, but changed my mind. However, having this on Guy Fawkes Day somehow works as well.

Photo of lurpy1
4.8/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A long time coming on this one, fortunate to get 2 bottles from Four Firkins. One is being saved for a rainy day in 2013, the other to drink post-haste.

The pour is darker than a Spinal Tap album cover, with a substantial, sticky ocean-scum head that just goes and goes.

Smell...ooh la la, a lot going on here, but raisins, cherries, malt, and oats come to the fore. Goddamn.

If anything, the taste runs to the excessive, so much malt, fruit, boozy backdrop. Absolutely delicious. Why not a 5.0 for taste? Because it's almost too much, completely hit over the head with flavor.

Mouthfeel is perfect a thick, glossy sludge of a beer that doesn't coat the tongue too badly.

Awesome beer. Totally awesome. Glad I was able to get my hands on it.

Photo of ChopperSmith
4.15/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2011 Darkness (Zombie label) poured from tap into a standard clear pint glass at The Bulldog Northeast in Minneapolis.

Appearance: As the name suggests, this beer pours a deep opaque brown color (looks black), darkness indeed. Pours with a one finger tan foam head that receded quickly and left some nice sticky lacing.

Smell: Sweet and malty with caramel and toffee notes mixed with coffee and cream. Some slight earthy wet grass hops aroma underneath.

Taste: Exceptionally smooth and sweet. Dark roasted malts provide a good sweet coffee and cream flavor, with some good caramel and slight toffee notes. A slight earthy hops flavor is detected. Also flavors of dark fruits, like black cherries and prunes, mixed with a little black licorice. Very flavorful and complex. Flavors opened up a bit as it warmed in the glass.

Mouth Feel: Medium to full bodied and a creamy carbonation that works well with the style (would love to try this one with a creamy nitro tap).

Overall: An outstanding Porter! I can see what all the hype is about and why this is such a sought after brew. It is perfection for a stout. At 10.3% ABV it's definitely a sipping beer, and a great choice for a good fall or winter warmer. Will look for this again in the future, in bottle or on tap...any way I can get it!

Photo of UCLABrewN84
4.33/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to shrek086 for sending me this long time want!

2010 vintage with the vampire artwork.

Pours an opaque black with a 3 inch puffy dark khaki head that settles to a dense small cap. A latticework of lace lines the glass on the drink down. Smell is of dark roasted malt, dark fruits, cocoa powder, and an alcohol aroma. Taste is of dark roasted malt, slightly sour dark fruits, bittersweet chocolate, and some roasted coffee bean flavors. A mild roasty bitterness lingers on the palate with each sip. There is a bit of a soy sauce quality in both the smell and taste but it's not at all unpleasant. This beer has a smooth and creamy mouthfeel with a lower level of carbonation. Overall, this is a very good RIS that deserves its status as a highly acclaimed beer. I am very happy I finally was able to snag one of these.

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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
99 out of 100 based on 3,072 ratings.